Ferndale standout locks down first offer

OFFENSE OR DEFENSE at the next level? College football -- or baseball? These are questions two-way All-State performer Jake Locker will seek answers to this coming year. The senior-to-be from rural Ferndale is one of the top football prospects in Washington state. His coach says he's a bona fide college QB or DB, though one college assistant certainly feels his future is behind center. Locker also told CF.C he's received his first scholarship offer - from a school known for great quarterbacks

Located up in the northwest corner of Washington, Ferndale is where Cougar tight end Cody Boyd made a name for himself. And if the coaching staff at Washington State has its way, another Golden Eagle will grace the roster in 2006. WSU is the first school to offer Locker a scholarship. But they don't figure to be the last.

Locker is a triple-threat at Ferndale High and his play in 2004 earned him first-team AP All-State recognition at both quarterback and defensive back. Ferndale coach Jamie Plenkovich said there is no doubt the two-time All-NW League safety with 4.45 speed can play either position in college. And Locker enjoys putting his hat on people. "He will hit you." said Plenkovich.

Not surprisingly, Plenkovich talked to one quarterbacks coach who eschews the notion and would much rather see Locker barking out a cadence. WSU quarterbacks coach Timm Rosenbach, himself a one-time prep quarterback who loved to crack shoulder pads on defense, was one of the first recruiters to visit Ferndale last year. As he and Plenkovich sat down to review Locker's tape, the Ferndale coach told Rosenbach he thought Locker might make a darned good defensive back. A few minutes into the video of Locker on offense, Rosenbach turned to Plenkovich with a smile and said, "Nope. He's a quarterback."

Locker does not have a position preference, "Whatever the coaches wanted me to play would be fine with me," he said.

ALONG WITH THE Cougs, schools recruiting him hardest right now are Washington, Oregon and Notre Dame. Others showing marked interest include Oregon State, Cal, Arizona State, Miami, Nebraska, Colorado, Montana and Idaho State. Locker is open to all schools, not wanting to close any doors at this early stage.

But there's also a chance Locker could wind up pursuing a career on the baseball diamond. "It's still kind of up in the air at this point," said Locker, a star pitcher and outfielder at Ferndale. "I haven't made my mind up yet -- I love playing both."

If he does choose the gridiron, Plenkovich said some school will be getting both an exceptional person and football player.

WHEREVER HE GOES, academics and the coaching staff will be of paramount importance. Distance also will factor into his decision, with a large extended family in the area that would love to see him in the northern half of the Pac-10.

Locker said he'd like his position coach and coaching staff to push him to be his best but also be people he can form close ties with on and off the field.

Locker would also like to attend a few junior days this spring but might have trouble fitting them in with only a brief window between basketball and football seasons. "If I did go, I'd probably go to Washington's just for the fact that it's close," he said.

A THREE SPORT standout currently wrapping up his basketball season, Locker trains for football virtually year-round, running sprints and other football drills in the morning before school.

"That's something really special about him -- his teammates love him because he'll work his tail off and he also has all that ability. Success hasn't lessened his work ethic at all," says his coach.

SPECIAL FROM THE beginning, Locker became the first freshman to start on the varsity for former Ferndale coach and current Athletic Director Vic Randall in his 21-year coaching career, lining up at cornerback in '02.

Ferndale, known for it's dedication to the run, doesn't toss the pigskin around a whole lot but Locker excels at throwing on the run -- that's his strong suit. And there's no question about his arm strength -- he has a veritable cannon.

In 2004 he passed for 1,314 yards and 16 TDs while rushing for 987 yards and 15 TDs. In a thrill ride of a contest not decided until the final minute, Locker nearly led Ferndale to a monumental upset of Bellevue in last season's 3A state championship game. Locker had a hand in all Ferndale's scoring, running for over 150 yards with 3 TDs and passing for another in the 31-28 loss to the Wolverines.

"Locker is phenomenal," said Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff. "Rarely do you find a kid who can run like Jake and throw a football 70 yards accurately."

In addition to his quarterback and defensive back prowess, Locker's also a threat returning punts and kickoffs. In the state semis, he ran 24 yards for one touchdown, threw a 67-yard scoring strike and also returned a punt 66 yards in Ferndale's 45-6 win.

A very strong Christian, Locker also stars in the classroom, carrying a 3.8 GPA. He is considering a major in Architecture or possibly Communications.

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